What is happening in Afghanistan is, according to US experts, the worst-case scenario that was considered when planning the withdrawal of troops after twenty years of war. President Biden was obsessed with ensuring that the withdrawal did not give the impression of a military defeat, as in Vietnam, and the planning failed both militarily and politically.
The deployment of troops and resources has resulted in hundreds of casualties and a waste of billions of dollars without obtaining in return anything quantifiable or measurable in terms of social or geopolitical results. The president is left with the explanation that it was not he who promoted the invasion and the ensuing war, nor did he determine the end.
The presence in Afghanistan had two objectives: first, to end the threat of the Taliban and their jihadist allies, and second, to lay a democratic foundation that would guarantee the freedom of citizens from the threat of fanatics. The military managed with great difficulty to preserve the existence of a weak civilian government in Kabul, but the existence of such a government soon proved incapable of maintaining control and predictably short-lived.
The first failure was the attempt to create a modern and cohesive national armed forces. As soon as it became known that the Americans and their NATO allies were leaving, this new army collapsed. Some of its members were Taliban sympathisers, if not militants, and the rest, who chose to disperse in less time than it takes to tell, showed that they lacked military sense and fighting morale.
The belief in Washington was that the government and the military forged in its schools and bases would maintain for at least a year and a half the charade they were leaving behind. Analyses erred from the outset in the belief that the new officers and soldiers would at least defend their economic status, which would guarantee the temporary sustenance of the situation.
Once again the Pentagon found itself faced with the difference between the theoretical and optimistic reports of its strategists, surely well planned but out of touch with reality, and facing an unknown enemy, motivated by ancestral religious convictions and trained in hatred of intruders trying to impose themselves on their beliefs and culture, was another matter altogether.
Now the objectives have changed: to avoid further personal damage in the disastrous evacuation process and, at the same time, to plan the diplomatic reaction to the new situation on the international scene and try to revitalise the image of a president who had made a good start to his mandate and had just suffered a setback that will mark his biography for the rest of his time in the White House.